Nuclear Power Plant Embalse,
Argentina

Nuclear Power in Argentina

Nuclear Power in Argentina

Electricity consumption in Argentina has grown strongly since 1990. Per capita consumption was just over 2000 kWh / year in 2002 and increased to around 3000 kWh / year in 2015. Gross electricity production in 2016 was 147 TWh , with 75 TWh (51%) of natural gas, 38 TWh (26%) of hydropower, 21 TWh (14%) of oil, 3 TWh (2%) of coal, 8 TWh (5% *) of nuclear energy and 10 TWh of net import. The total electric power produced by fossil fuels is 99TWh.

In Argentina, approximately 10% of electricity comes from 3 operational nuclear reactors: the Embalse nuclear power plant, a CANDU reactor, and the Atucha 1 nuclear power plant in 1974, a German PHWR design. In 2001, the plant was modified to burn slightly enriched uranium, which makes it the first PHWR reactor to burn that nuclear fuel around the world. The Atucha nuclear power plant was originally planned to be a complex with several reactors. Atucha 2 (similar to Atucha1 but more powerful) started producing energy on June 3, 2014, it is expected to produce 745MWh. Plans have been announced for Atucha III, a third reactor in the Atucha complex.

In Argentina, the production of electric power is largely privatized, and is regulated by the ENRE (National Regulatory Entity of Electricity). The installed capacity is about 35 GW, about 11% of which is self-producers and private generators.

Argentina also has some other research reactors, and exports nuclear technology. Nucleoeléctrica de Argentina and Atomic Energy of Canada Limited are negotiating the contracts and the project delivery model for a new 740 MWe CANDU nuclear power plant.

Development of the Argentine nuclear industry

In 1950, the National Atomic Energy Commission (CNEA) was created. This commission led to a series of activities focused on the research and development of nuclear energy in Argentina, including the construction of several nuclear research reactors. Currently, five nuclear research reactors are operating with the expectation of building a sixth nuclear power reactor.

In 1964 Argentina became fully interested in nuclear energy and carried out a feasibility study to build a plant in the Buenos Aires region of 300-500 MW. The country's policy was firmly based on the use of heavy-water nuclear reactors using natural uranium as a nuclear fuel. The most attractive offers that were finally accepted were those from Canada and Germany. As a result, the Atucha nuclear power plant was built in Lima, 115 km northwest of Buenos Aires.

Atucha I nuclear power plant - ArgentinaThe Atucha 1 nuclear power station became operational in 1974, becoming the first Argentine nuclear power plant.

In 1967, a second feasibility study of a larger nuclear plant was carried out at the Embalse in the region of Córdoba, 500 km inland. In this case, a CANDU-6 reactor was selected from the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL), in part due to the technology transfer agreement that accompanied it, and was built with the Italian company Italimpianti. The Embalse nuclear power plant became operational in 1984. In 2010, an agreement was signed for the renovation of the plant and to extend its useful life by 25 years. It was used to increase the power by approximately 7% with an investment of $ 240 million. Currently, about 80% of its capacity is working to limit the neutron damage in the pressure tubes.

In 1979, a third nuclear power plant in Argentina - Atucha 2 - was projected as a result of a decision of the Argentine government to have four more units that came into operation between 1987 and 1997. It was a Siemens design. Construction began in 1981. However, work progressed slowly due to lack of funds and was suspended in 1994 with 81% of the plant built.

In 1994, Nucleoeléctrica Argentina SA (NASA) was created to take over CNEA's nuclear power plants and supervise the construction of Atucha 2.

The design of the Siemens Atucha PHWR units was exclusive to Argentina, and NASA sought the experience of Germany, Spain and Brazil to complete the unit. In 2003, plans were presented to complete the 692 MW of Atucha 2. In August 2006, the government announced a US plan. of 3.5 billion dollars to develop nuclear energy in Argentina. The aim was to finish Atucha 2 and extend the working life of Atucha 1 and Embalse.

The objective was for nuclear energy to be part of an expansion of generation capacity to meet the growing demand. Meanwhile, a feasibility study was carried out on a fourth-generation reactor to start construction from 2010.

In July 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a nuclear energy cooperation agreement with Argentine President Cristina Fernández Kirchner during a visit to the country.

In February 2015, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner and Chinese President Xi Jinping signed a cooperation agreement, and proposed the construction of a Hualong One power plant.

In December 2015, a new uranium enrichment plant was inaugurated to manufacture fuel for Argentina's nuclear plants, located in Pilcaniyeu. The plant will use more modern gaseous and laser diffusion techniques.

China and Argentina agreed on a contract to build a reactor derived from CANDU 6 of 700 MWe. Its construction was scheduled to begin in 2018 in Atucha, but was suspended indefinitely by the government of Mauricio Macri due to financial problems. The start of the construction of a 1000 MWe Hualong One plant is planned for 2020.

CAREM nuclear reactor

Another aspect of the 2006 plan was a step towards the construction of a 27 MW prototype of the CAREM reactor. It is currently in the pre-construction stage in the northwest province of Formosa.

The CAREM nuclear reactor was developed by CNEA and INVAP (Applied Research). The nuclear CAREM reactor is a 100 megawatt thermal modular system with a simplified pressure water nuclear reactor with integral steam generators.

This reactor is designed to be used for the generation of electricity (27 MWe net) or as a research reactor or for water desalination. Recent studies have assessed the possibility of increasing the scale of 100 or 300 MWe. It is a mature design that could be deployed within a decade.

Uranium resources in Argentina

Argentina's uranium resources are only about 15,000 tU, despite the fact that CNEA estimates that there are some 55,000 tU as "exploration targets". From the mid-1950s a uranium exploration and a bit of mining was carried out, but the last mine closed in 1997 for economic reasons.

However, in Argentina there are plans to reopen the Sierra Pintada CNEA mine in Mendoza, in the center-west, closed since 1997. It is also known as the San Rafael mine and the mill. The resumption of uranium mining is part of the 2006 plan.

In 2007, the CNEA reached an agreement with the Provincial Government of Salta, in the north of the country to reopen the Don Otto uranium mine, which operated intermittently from 1963 to 1981.

Radioactive waste management in Argentina

Since April 1997, the National Nuclear Activity Law assigns CNEA responsibility for the management of radioactive waste, which creates a special fund for this purpose.

Low and medium activity waste, including spent fuel from research reactors, is handled at the Ezeiza CNEA facilities. The fuel used is stored in each plant.

The CNEA is also responsible for dismantling the equipment, which must be financed progressively for each operation of the plant.

Regulation and safety

In 1994, the Nuclear Regulatory Authority (Nuclear Regulatory Authority, ARN) was formed and took over all regulatory functions of the National Nuclear Regulatory Board (National Nuclear Regulatory Entity, ENREN) and the CNEA. As well as radiation protection, it is also responsible for security, licenses and guarantees. It depends directly on the President.

The Nuclear Activity Law of 1997 establishes the respective functions of the CNEA and the Nuclear Regulatory Authority. The National Mining Code of 1994 stipulates that the government has the first option to buy all the uranium produced in Argentina, after guaranteeing the internal supply. It also regulates development activities against environmental standards.

Treaty of non-proliferation of nuclear energy

Within the history of nuclear energy, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty is a treaty open for signature on July 1, 1968, in force since March 5, 1970, which restricts the possession of nuclear weapons and is part of so much of the efforts of the international community to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It is integrated by the vast majority of sovereign States. Only five States were allowed possession of nuclear weapons: the United States (signatory in 1968), the United Kingdom (1968), France (1992), the Soviet Union (1968, replaced by Russia), and the People's Republic of China (1992). The special condition of these five "Nuclear Weapons States" (NWS or Nuclear Weapons States) was defined by the fact that they were the only ones that had detonated a nuclear test until 1967.

Argentina has been a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) since 1995 as a state without nuclear weapons, and has been a party to the Tlatelolco Treaty since 1994. However, the total safeguards have operated since 1991 in collaboration with the Brazilian Agency -Argentina de Contabilidad y Control de Materiales Nucleares (ABACC), under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Argentina has not signed the Additional Protocol in relation to its safeguards agreements with the IAEA. The country is a member of the Nuclear Suppliers Group.

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Last review: May 24, 2019